In search of the $7,000 French horn

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One question raised fairly often is on the topic of what new horns can be purchased for roughly $7,000? Underlying the question is the fact that so many of the horns that really have advanced players interested are in the $9,000 plus range, and horns that sell for less than $5,000 are not what advanced students, good amateurs, and pros are looking for.

What the horn shopper hopes for in the new $7,000 horn is one that has much of the feel and sound of a “custom” or high end professional horn but without quite the big dent in the wallet — with an additional point being the buyer is in fact wanting a new horn, not a used horn, of which there are many to be found in roughly this same price range.

This article will focus on the horn market in the USA (the horns below can all be purchased from dealers in the USA) in the general retail price range (2016) of $6,000-8,000. The below are listed alphabetically by maker and organized by general type of horn wrap.

A brief word about prices

In the big picture all advertised prices, depending on the dealer, are probably negotiable. The article that follows presents no prices, merely noting where the horns discussed generally fit into our target $6,000 to $8,000 retail price range. Contact dealers for quotes. The reasons why they fit in the price range are all in general the same, having to do with some combination of the quality of parts (especially the valves and bell) and overall construction relative to that seen in the typical student model horn.

Geyer/Knopf wrap horns

The higher end horn market in recent years has clearly trended in the USA toward horns with a Geyer/Knopf type wrap (more in general on these horn types here), or some closely related wrap that would be perceived, at least at a distance, to be of the same general type. Descriptions tend to call them Geyer style horns, probably due to Geyer being long out of business but Knopf still sells horns.

Briz

First up alphabetically is the Pope Balu Alliance horn, which is a Knopf style horn made in China by Briz. This is their top of line model and features a hand hammered bell tail and first branch. Priced at the lower end of our price range, only about ten of these are made a year at this time.

Finke

German horn maker Finke has for many years produced a large line of horns. The models to note here are their numbers 68 and 69, also known as the Americus and Brendon models, which are upper end of this price range and are what could be described as modified Knopf wrap horns.

Willson-Geyer-300Willson

Probably best known in the USA for Euphoniums and tubas, Swiss maker Willson also makes a line of horns that price out at lower end of this price range. The CS250 series horn, while they describe it as a Geyer style horn, is a classic Knopf wrap instrument. [Disclaimer: I actually bought one of these (but subsequently upgraded into a higher price range), which is part of why this whole topic of the $7,000 horn resonates with me, and why I expect we will see more fine horns in this price range in coming years.]

Yamaha

This is probably the biggest news, as earlier this year it was announced (more here) that Yamaha is discontinuing the 667 horn (Knopf wrap) in favor of the new 671/871 models. A true Geyer style horn, the 871 will end up priced at retail around the middle of our price range. This joins another horn in the Yamaha catalog that is also in this price range, the YHR-667V horn, which prices out toward the top of the range. It would be considered a modified Knopf style horn.

Kruspe and modified Kruspe wrap horns

In common use today the term “Kruspe wrap” refers to any horn made to the same design layout as the Conn 8D (which was based on a Kruspe design — more on the topic of Kruspe or Geyer here), and we use here the term “modified Kruspe” to reference the same general design but with the separate Bb horn tuning slide (such as seen on a Holton Farkas model).

8Ddraw1956.jpgConn

The Vintage 8D (V8D) model is the top of the line from Conn and prices out in the lower end of our target price range. One advertised feature is “custom stress free assembly,” which is a clue as to why this is priced where it is rather than with the standard 8D models — and also a general clue as to what is driving the price higher on all the horns in this article.

Holton

Holton is part of Conn-Selmer as well, and also has a top of the line model available, the H105. This horn is a modified Kruspe type with a special bronze bell, and prices out in the middle of this price range.

Hoyer

German maker Hoyer has a large line of horns that are available widely in the USA. Two of their Kruspe style horns price out at the upper end of our target price range, their 7801 and 7802 models.

Willson

Joining their Geyer/Knopf wrap horn (described earlier) in this price range are three more models that all price out at lower end of the spectrum. The CS240 is a modified Kruspe wrap and the CS260 and CS263 are both Kruspe style horns.

“Other” wrap horns

At least one more horn is out there in this price range that is not a Geyer or a Kruspe (for a bit more info on this general topic see here).

Hoyer

The Hoyer C-12 double horn has much of the look of a triple horn at a glance – the design is clearly related to their triple horn models — and is at the upper end of this price range.

To close…

The big news in this price range for 2016 is certainly the Yamaha 871, it puts a major maker right there with a product that is going to get a lot of serious looks. But don’t overlook the other models in the range, they are all there for distinct reasons related to the cost of manufacture and quality of parts, and are yet another reason to go to a good horn workshop to try some new horns! For more on trying horns in general see this article.

University of Horn Matters